UTAH (ABC4) – The Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) stayed busy over the holiday weekend with extra patrols out on the streets.

Troopers pulled over more than 4,000 drivers over the weekend and 56 of those for DUIs. With drug abuse at an all-time high across the country, officials worry DUIs may become more frequent, and there could be more fatalities on Utah roads.  

According to the CDC, in the United States, drug overdoses rose by 30 percent in 2020 from the previous year. In 2021, they rose by another 15 percent. This means more than 107,000 Americans died from an overdose last year. Fentanyl plays a huge role in that increase in drug-related deaths. However, the CDC’s data shows that overdoses (and use) of meth, cocaine and prescription drugs are all on the rise as well. 

“A lot of different substances are on the rise and we’re seeing it all,” Teighlor Kodel told ABC4. Kodel is the program manager for Davis Behavioral Health Receiving Center. Her career is dedicated to helping people overcome addiction. While Utah’s overdose rate may not have increased as much as the national rate, she said Utah is by no means immune to the problem.  

“People don’t use substances because they want to be a drug addict,” stated Kodel. “They use substances because they’re struggling, because they’re being peer-pressured, and they just want to feel good.” She said she hopes Utahns will start to realize that America’s drug problem is in their own backyard. Kodel added, “It touches everyone. Your family, friends and ward members. They may not have an addiction, but they probably know someone who does.” 

While drug use is undoubtedly for the user, it may be putting total strangers in danger’s way as well.  

The most recent Utah DUI Report shows that in 2020, there were more than 52,000 car accidents in the state. Of those, 3.7 percent were alcohol-related and two percent were drug-related. This resulted in more than 2,000 people being injured and more than 150 deaths. Alcohol still counts for the majority of DUIs in Utah, but health officials worry drug-related accidents could continue to rise. Kodel added: “We put a very big emphasis on not driving under the influence of alcohol. We don’t put that much emphasis, here in Utah, on driving under the influence of other substances.” 

Kodel, like many others in her profession, hope the public will become more educated to the dangers driving while under the influence of drugs. “There’s a lot of similarities, again, you’re not thinking clearly,” she stated. “In fact, you’re probably feeling very great at the time you get behind the wheel.” She reiterated, “People don’t really understand that they’re under the influence the times that they are using these substances. That might have slurred speech, they might be drowsy, they don’t have the reflexes you need while driving.” 

The Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory council notes that unlike alcohol, “little evidence is available to link concentrations of other drug types to driver performance.” For this reason, Kodel says those who are starting a new prescription should not drive until they know just how that drug affects their motor skills.